Even over the telephone, Rohan Chand displays the trait that best defines his character from Bad Words — awkward yet confident. The 10-year-old American actor of Indian origin, who won acclaim for his role in the Hollywood film that released in the US last month, has an answer to every question. While some seem practised, he answers most of them with honesty and maturity. “Jason, who has been a child actor himself, understood me very well. It’s from him that I learnt to keep my performance real and natural,” says Chand about television sit-com Arrested Development actor Jason Bateman, who made his directorial debut with Bad Words. New York-based Chand plays the lead role in the black comedy alongside Bateman.
The film tells the story of a 40-year-old Guy Trilby, who uses a loophole in a spelling bee competition to enter as a contestant. He sabotages it by winning against other eight-year-olds to reach the finale where he’s pitted against Chaitanya Chopra, played by Chand. Along the way, the two competitors forge an unlikely friendship.
Chand’s parents, both IT professionals, were initially apprehensive about having their eight-year-old act in the film. Since it had obscenities, theatrical viewing for under 17-year-olds could only be with parental guidance. Black lines ran over the censored portions in the script that was handed to his parents. Bateman shared and discussed the script with them, and they finally came around. “They took me to watch the film eventually,” says Chand.
While the response to Bad Words, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, has brought him under the spotlight, Chand has been part of several prestigious projects. The actor made his debut at the age of six after a casting agent spotted him playing baseball. That meeting bagged him the role of Adam Sandler’s adopted son in Jack & Jill (2011). “Adam’s extremely funny, he would keep joking before the shots. I picked up ways to make people laugh from Adam,” says Chand.
He also did a small role in Lone Survivor (2013) alongside Mark Wahlberg. Now, he has two new projects lined up. There’s The Hundred-Foot Journey by Lasse Hallström about an Indian chef who moves to France to open a restaurant and faces competition from a French eatery. The film, which also stars Om Puri, Juhi Chawla and Helen Mirren, will see Chand play the chef in his early years. The other is a Disney animation in which he will lend voice to a character.
Hollywood plays to the faithful, finds hits with God
Hollywood has embraced God in a big – and lucrative – way. The movie Heaven is for Real, which depicts the story of a young boy who claims to have visited heaven during a near death experience, is the fourth faith-based film this year to stir movie-going audiences with impressive box-office numbers. Made for $12 million, the film, that stars Greg Kinnear, collected $21.5 million over the Easter weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters, finishing third at the box-office behind bigger budget films Captain America: The Winter Soldier from Walt Disney and Rio 2 from Fox. Two other Christian-based films also cracked the top 10. Noah, from Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, stars Russell Crowe as the biblical figure and was ninth. It has generated more than $93 million at domestic theaters since opening in March, according to the site Box Office Mojo.
God’s Not Dead, about a religious freshman college student who debates his professor over the existence of God, was tenth and has totalled $48 million over five weeks, despite playing in only about half the numbers of theaters of Hollywood’s larger films. Fox’s Son of God, an adaptation of producer Mark Burnett’s 10-hour TV mini series The Bible, generated more than $59 million in domestic ticket sales after opening earlier this year. “This audience has long felt left out by Hollywood and it certainly looks like this isn’t the case anymore,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior market analyst of box- office tracking firm Rentrak, in an email. “The numbers will encourage studios to make more of these types of films.” Studios have been searching for more faith-based films since Mel Gibson’s 2004 The Passion of the Christ, which tallied $611.9 million in worldwide ticket sales and was made on a modest budget of $30 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
In the last five years, Hollywood has made 26 movies that the site classifies as “Christian” films, including three based on The Chronicles of Narnia, fantasy novels by C.S. Lewis, that literary academics say, adopted several Christian themes. “There’s a core audience and they’re very interested in seeing films with a faith-based center,” said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distributor for Sony Pictures Entertainment, whose TriStar Pictures unit distributed Heaven is for Real.
“The one main ingredient most have is that they are somewhat inspirational in nature,” said Bruer. “People feel like they get something out of it.” Not all get great reviews. Heaven is for Real got a positive “fresh” rating from only 31 of 59 reviewers, according to the site Rotten Tomatoes.
But some of the films can have a built-in marketing vehicle, according to David A. R. White, whose company Pure Flix produced the film God’s Not Dead. White told Entertainment Weekly that Pure Flix waged an aggressive grass-roots campaign that included screening the film for 8,000 pastors prior to its opening. ” Reuters